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Trip Report - Mala Mala / Rattrays Jan 2007

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Jan 31st, 2007, 12:50 PM
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Trip Report - Mala Mala / Rattrays Jan 2007

I'm back after 8 great days at Mala Mala. I'll make this a fairly short trip report, figuring that additional detail if needed, can be asked for.

Flights - Virgin Upper Class through London. Very good as usual, though IFE didn't work on 1st leg, was offered 20 pounds worth of duty free, I suggested miles would be better and was offered 15000.
BAA Carry on regulations are a nightmare, we did manage to sneak through on way out, but on our return, they limited us to one carry on, and small ones at that. Most of that rule seems to be about reducing the lines as far as I can see, but be warned they are very strict.
Additional airline issues, SAA are now very hot on baggage limits on internal flights, allowing 15kg per person. We had 44kg total, my Star Alliance Gold allowed us an extra 10kg, but I still had to pay R91 for the extra 4kg.
I can't speak too highly about the comfort of the UC suite, I slept for close to 8 hours, JNB-LHR then got ana dditional 4+ from LHR-SFO.

Mala Mala and the SSGR is pretty dry right now. Rainfall is about 25% of normal. This is already being seen in many pan's normally full of water being dry. Also large numbers of Elephants, presumably from Kruger where attracted to the Sand River, we saw herds of 150+, unusual in SSGR.

Highlights

Kikilezi female and cub.
Newington Male hunting for warthogs.
Campbell Koppies female on an Impala kill.
Bicycle Crossing Male posing by the river.
Daughter of Campbell Koppies female on some rocks.
Ngoboswan female (tracks indicated mating with Bicycle Crossing Male) in the reeds near camp.

Styx Pride looking good after back to back Zebra / Kudu kills.
Split Rock Male even attempted to mate with one of Styx Pride.
1 Styx Pride female with 1 Rollercoaster male stalking waterbuck on floodplain in front of camp.
Other Rollercoaster male and 3 Eyrefield females hunting and killing a Nyala. His leg looks much better (for Kaye).
2 young male and 1 feamle (4-5) nomadic.
1 very young male (2.5) nomadic at a very early age, looked like he had been kicked out by new males.

six cheetah in 4 sightings
3 youngsters just kicked out by mom (2F, 1M)
2 adult male
1 adult male post kill at Mlowathi.
Great interaction between the youngsters and the males at Clarendon. The youngsters were very submissive and their was lots of noise.

Elephants - lots of good sized herds. We did get charged by elephants at the Lion kill, very scary and pretty close run thing.

Rhino - plenty around, one charged us and was so close I have to think he pulled up.

Hippo - some good sightings of hippo out of water and one very smelly carcass at Ridge Rocks with lots of vulture activity.

Hyena - awesome visit to the den south of Kirkman's, alpha female is the biggest Hyena I have ever seen! She had 2 three month old's. In addition Beta female had 2 three week old's - totally black and very relaxed.

Buffalo - two herds (150, 600) and lots of Dagga Boys. Even saw Yellowbilled Oxpeckers on the big herd.

Birding was good (164) though not great, lack of water was an issue, and the loss of Leon was felt strongly. We did have a new tool this time, I bought DW a PDA with Roberts loaded on a card. It was amazing to use this to call birds into us.

Mala Mala provided strong game viewing as always. The accomodations are excellent, with Rattrays being out of this world. Food and drink were excellent as was the service.
We found out from our ranger that there is a file on every guest, so rangers know what repeat customers have seen, what their interests are, what kind of pillows they like etc. Very well done.
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Jan 31st, 2007, 01:24 PM
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I can't believe you're back already -- seems like you left yesterday. Nice to see we can extract miles, which are a lot better than overpriced perfume or Johnnie Walker Blue.
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Jan 31st, 2007, 01:28 PM
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Thanks for the report napamatt, I know that it is not all that new to you having been there maybe 60(?) nights. So maybe a bit of a chore to write. But I still like to read about it, makes me want to pack my duffel bag.
What's going on here, tell some more please -
"We did have a new tool this time, I bought DW a PDA with Roberts loaded on a card. It was amazing to use this to call birds into us."
I don't think calling mammals would be good, but birds, sure. Get those little peckers over close so can get a decent picture(s).
regards - tom
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Jan 31st, 2007, 01:47 PM
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Calling mammals can be plenty of fun too Tom. In fact it can be quite exhilirating.

Napamatt: thanks for the great report. Lots of great sites in 8 days, will you be posting pics? Sounds like you had a great playback set up, I've been thinking about loading calls onto my ipod or some other method. Hopefully my days of packing in with a boom box for owl surveys are over.
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Jan 31st, 2007, 02:30 PM
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None of my business napamatt, but, why only 8 days? To me, seems like a very long trip for 8 days there. I would do 12 days minimum, plus travel time. Of course if you email me with an offer of 8 days complimentary, well, give me an hour to get ready.
regards - tom
ps - yeah, I know you are going back this September, but, still all travel for 8 days
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Jan 31st, 2007, 02:41 PM
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Also, 25% rain, will that likely be about it for this season you think? Was the elephant charge "real" not just "mock"? How is game viewing compared to like September, lot of brush/tall grass? What was weather like, temperature. I may be tempted to go next year at this time of year.
FWIW, I'm making every effort to not fly via the EU, i.e. avoid LHR, AMS, FRA, MAD etc. Next trip is on SAA, JFK to JNB.
regards - tom
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Jan 31st, 2007, 04:25 PM
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Tom

8 days, with travel is 11, we like to go twice a year, and only have 15 days (DW) 20 myself of vacation. So the trips are short, but the travel is ok, if you are front of plane, and youngish! The flat bed is a life saver.

I have the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa CD on my computer, so I purchased the PDA version and an HP 2490 for Elke for Christmas. We then used this to locate a couple of birds and also see what the reaction might be. A Black-bellied Korhaan came running at the vehicle to see who was calling. We used it to locate Shelley's Francolin very successfully. Our ranger gave me the cash to buy him one and send it to him, he thinks all trainees should have them.

Bush was much lower than normal at this time of year, so visibility was better. While green, the bush was beginning to show signs of drying out. Normally the viewing is not as good as September due to the height of grass, but the birding is better and the green scenery is a nice contrast.
Temperatures were very hot, a couple of days we almost hit 100F.
Our friends flew SAA from IAD and said it was great. My next two trips will both include London, but hopefully things will be better.

Pred - photos from DW in due course. I will see if there is any youtube worthy video.
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Jan 31st, 2007, 04:36 PM
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Hi Matt,

How's the Split Rock male doing? He wasn't looking so good when I saw him in July shortly after his brother passed on, and several of the rangers thought it was likely that he'd get pushed out. He's a rather homely lion but I'm rather attached to him, having seen him on virtually every trip.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 31st, 2007, 06:24 PM
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Welcome home. I'd love to know more about the ele and rhino charging.

A file on every guest!? Like the CIA!
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Jan 31st, 2007, 06:28 PM
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Hello,

I bet mine has lots of stuff about my weird food preferences. I know my CCA and WS files do...

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 31st, 2007, 06:30 PM
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santharamhari
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Napamatt,

Thanks for the report......

My jaw literally dropped when i read your cheetah sightings. Fabulous stuff!!!

Thanks for sharing,

Hari
 
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Feb 1st, 2007, 05:15 AM
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Hi Matt

I have been very busy on photos and hope to get them up soon, but I am pleased to hear about the Rollercoaster Male. I did have some fabulous gameviewing. We had heaps of wet weather which I have never really had before, plus really cold days and then days in upper 30's or on 40 degrees. For the first time I also saw a Shelley's Francolin this time. The bush was lush and green, so doesn't take long for that to change.

Was there 7 Styx Pride lionesses? Last morning we saw them only 5 present, so not sure about the two younger ones? Split Rock Male was there but he is looking a bit past it now! Also ele were sadly lacking when we were there, only one or two small breeding herds were seen otherwise just the odd bull.

Who was your ranger at each camp? I did suspect that you would miss Leon as your birding ranger! Also keen to find out what cubs the Jakkalsdraai Female still has, as one was murdered by the Hlarulini Male when we were there, thank god I did not see that!

Kind regards,

Kaye
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Feb 1st, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Julian

Split Rock Male is looking very well, he is permanently attached to the Styx Pride, who are now pretty noamdic. He now longer roars, but could probably take either of the Rolloercoaster Males one on one. He even tried mating with a Styx female when we were there.

Lynn

Rhino was the Emsagwen Male, ranger Grant noted that he is a bit grumpy and so we gave him lots of space. He seemed quite relaxed and turned away from us and began to move off behind some bush, Grant started the engine and we moved cautiously forward so as not to spook him, our intention being to drive past as he moved away from the road. In an instant he suddenly charged from through the bushes with no warning. My memory is seeing him charging toward the landrover, being about 3 feet away from the passenger door as we sped forward, I think he pulled up, otherwise he would have made some contact with the vehicle. Very exhilarating.

Kaye
7 females in Styx pride, looking very good. Jackalsdraii has lost both cubs.
Main Camp Ranger was Grant Telfer (we were his last guests), at Rattrays we had Giles Kelmanson who is leaving shortly.
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Feb 1st, 2007, 08:18 AM
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santharamhari
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Napamatt,

What about all those wild dog sightings? Are they still around and how many in the pack? any other details....thanks

H
 
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Feb 1st, 2007, 09:37 AM
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They saw the dogs on one day the week before we got there, 13 dogs were seen. We didn't get lucky.
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Feb 1st, 2007, 11:10 AM
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Thanks for the rhino details. Exhilarating indeed!

Interesting comments on the length of time of your trip. I made an observaton after my last safari that was the about shortest I've ever done (11 nights in Africa & 10 on safari) and after my last two 5-night non-
African getaways. I felt as renewed, and satisfied after those trips as I have with longer trips.
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Feb 1st, 2007, 01:36 PM
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Lynn

I have to say that 13 days on safari (hard core) in Botswana last June was about my limit. I would rather have 8 or 9 days a couple of times a year, I realize I'm lucky being able to manage the air portion of the trip, but whilever thats the case I will favor two trips of this length.
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Feb 1st, 2007, 01:56 PM
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With just 150 - 300 breeding pairs in SA I do hope you have a picture of the YBO to share with us: That is a remarkable sighting and of far greater value than anything else that you might have seen.

Those little Buphagus, were considered extinct in SA by 1920! Recent research has shown a recolonisation in the Kruger, more central and on the eastern border, which makes your observation in the sabi sand most news worthy, great stuff and well done!
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Feb 1st, 2007, 01:56 PM
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If you count 3 nights at Kruger, our safari last Sep totaled 18 nights (Kruger plus 3 more camps for 15 nights). Which we think was too long, but, wanted to try it since the year before we felt that 12 nights (3 camps) could have been longer. Now feel that 12-14 nights at 3 camps is good. Next schedule is - This coming Sep, Carolyn, my sister and I doing 10 nights (Kruger and Kings Camp) and I'm doing after that another 6 nights MalaMala. Hey, if you're going to be that close to Mala how can you resist????
regards - tom
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Feb 1st, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Tom - agreed, if you're that close. By then if the drought continues you wont get past Piccadilly, you'll by falling over animals.

Mkhonzo - indeed. I'm sure DW got some pictures, at one point there were three on a Buffalo with juveniles (can't tell whether they were RBO or YBO). They have been seen infrequently on the large herd of Buffalo for a couple of years or more and this was my first sighting in SA, it also took me over 230 birds at Mala Mala, which is more than most rangers there. And yes I was very pleased with that sighting.
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